Books I Read in August

August’s been a pretty good month reading-wise. I finished a novel and read another for the #2016classicschallenge – Ingrid Bachmann’s Malina and Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon – and a wide range of other books:

Ingrid Bachmann: Malina

I picked up this book at my parent’s one weekend in July, and decided to read the novel as my July #2016classicschallenge. Malina is the first novel of Austrian poet and writer Ingrid Bachmann. It’s excellent, a love story of sorts and also an exploration of language, self, mental health, and the post-WWII generation told through the first-person narrator, a woman writer living in Vienna with her roommate Malina. The narration is so complex, intimate and intensive that it took me awhile to get into it and was hard to finish (for personal reasons) but I definitely recommend it.  

Dave Zirin: Brazil’s Dance with the Devil: The World Cup, The Olympics, and the Struggle for Democracy 

Dave Zirin is maybe the most interesting sports writer today. His blend of sport reporting, class analysis and leftist politics here comes in form of a report on the impact of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics on the people of Rio. The book includes a brief, concise history of Brazil, and I was especially impressed by the way Zirin connected Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine to the sports sphere.

Jeannette Walls: The Glass Castle 

I can barely believe this memoir is true. The childhood story of journalist and writer Jeannette Walls is one of abject white poverty, both neglect and love by her parents. The layers abuse sometimes made me so mad that I could barely keep reading, but Walls prose is so enthralling that I stuck with it. Overall it’s a coming of age story of a future gossip journalist that could be the plot of a Toni Morrison novel. The role of reading as escape, escapism and as habitus marker alone is fascinating.

Toni Morrison: Song of Solomon

My August classic, and one of the novel mentioned by the Swedes when Morrison received her Nobel prize. I’m always awed how compact her narrative and prose is. In this comparatively brief novel, Morrison tells about a century of African-American history, posits questions of race, gender and family, the role of lineage, death and love in Black communities, and creates  complex, messy characters. Perfect.

Paul Beatty: The Sellout 

An odd book to follow Morrison for a number of reasons. Paul Beatty’s novel about a man in the agrarian hood of Dickens in LA county who wants to bring his town back on the map and in the process unintentionally becomes the master a slave and intentionally (faux) segregates the neighborhood is being hailed as one of the best satires of recent time. I don’t really agree.  I don’t think the book is that well written, the scorching snide side remarks and references are at times just packed to tightly, and the book does make a lot of use of the nword (always ending in -er. never in -a) and reproduces a lot of racism and sexism. I know that that’s the point, but sometimes he overdoes it. Also, I’m not so sure if it’s a satire at all. A lot of the book is hyperbolic and satirical, but I didn’t read it as hysterical or humerous as a many (also white) critics did. At first I thought it really was supposed to be “Swiftian satire” as one of the blurbs claims, but halfway through I started reading as more angry than entertaining. It does critique pretty much every contemporary aspect of U.S. society, both mainstream and Black, and once I understood it to be a extremely eloquent “Shit’s Fucked Up and Bullshit” sign, I connected to it more.

https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/275626778/stream?client_id=N2eHz8D7GtXSl6fTtcGHdSJiS74xqOUI?plead=please-dont-download-this-or-our-lawyers-wont-let-us-host-audio

Hard-working orchestral folk punk band East Cameron Folkcore is releasing a lot of material in September. There is an all-new LP  Better Off coming out in September (in Germany on Grand Hotel van Cleef) as is Fossils, an all-acoustic, live EP of older, truly stunning material. The EP is streaming on soundcloud now, and available for streaming and pre-order on bandcamp. The songs are as politically raw and emotionally complex as usual. The EP is “dedicated to the work and to those who do it.” so it’s also great to listen too while reading Dave Zirin’s commentary on the Olympics or writing the 95th job application without diminishing hope for a response, or, you know, working.

LeBron James holds out the tantalizing possibility of being something more than a brand. There is something that made him say that his dream was to be “a global icon like Muhammad Ali.” There is something that made him dip a toe into waters African-American athletes rarely tread and say that he believed racism played a role in the ferocity of the reaction when he left Cleveland. There is something that compelled him to organize his team to stand up for Trayvon Martin, the entire team posing in hoodies, after the 17-year-old was killed by George Zimmerman. There is something—after all the bad blood, hurt feelings and still-sensitive scar tissue—that compels him to say he might leave Miami and return to Ohio.

He’s our superstar in the age of declinism, but one who inspires belief that there are better days ahead. I believe that LeBron James will leave Miami next season and return to Cleveland to become something not even Michael Jordan ever achieved: a folk hero. But I also believe that, even if he doesn’t find his way back to Ohio, LeBron James will continue to dazzle, and unlike so many others, never make us feel cheap for trusting him with our respect.

The Aspiring Folk Hero: Why LeBron James Will Return to the Cleveland Cavaliers | The Nation

Turns out, Dave Zirin was right: LeBron is coming home. In his decision “essay” (or rather: speech to a journalist) LeBron pretty much gives the same reasoning as Zirin: 

But this is not about the roster or the organization. I feel my calling here goes above basketball. I have a responsibility to lead, in more ways than one, and I take that very seriously. My presence can make a difference in Miami, but I think it can mean more where I’m from. I want kids in Northeast Ohio, like the hundreds of Akron third-graders I sponsor through my foundation, to realize that there’s no better place to grow up. Maybe some of them will come home after college and start a family or open a business. That would make me smile. Our community, which has struggled so much, needs all the talent it can get.

It’ll sure be interesting to see how this all-American story continues.

It is past time to abolish FIFA. It is like a gangrenous limb that requires amputation before the infection spreads and the beautiful game becomes decayed beyond all possible recognition. Soccer is worth saving. FIFA needs to take its ball and go home.

Throw FIFA Out of the Game – NYTimes.com

David Zirin counts the numerous issues the FIFA (“the most secret kingdom”) has and advocates for abolishing the federation, or at least splitting it up: One regulatory body, and one PR firm. I do see his point.